On Beauty in Retrospect


“The great artists are the ones who dare to entitle to beauty things so natural that when they’re seen afterward, people say: Why did I never realize before that this too was beautiful?”

– André Gide

On Waking up in Science Fiction


“Imagine waking up one day and realizing you were born on a completely different planet; and everything you learned was a lie, and your country’s history was so fabricated, and everyone around you was so brainwashed, and the heroes of your worship were actually monsters, villains.

This is like the plot to a science fiction novel, but it’s the insane reality for North Koreans, like me. From the moment I was born I was indoctrinated towards the first dictator Kim Il-sung and I always used to bow to his pictures, which hangs in every North Korean home.

To us he was a Santa Claus and God who is delivering presents on holidays and performing numerous miracles. When he was fighting our enemy he made bombs from pine cones and turned sent into rice and crossed a river on tree leaves, and he even walked across the rainbow. So that’s why, when I was young, I used to believe that I could also work across the rainbow.”

– Hyeonseo Lee

On Language, Politics and Reality


“Language has always been important in politics, but language is incredibly important to the present political struggle. Because if you can establish an atmosphere in which information doesn’t mean anything, then there is no objective reality.

– Stephen Colbert

On Churches and Lighthouses


“Were I a Roman Catholic, perhaps I should on this occasion vow to build a chapel to some saint, but as I am not, if I were to vow at all, it should be to build a light-house.”

– Benjamin Franklin


Benjamin Franklin wrote this in a letter to his wife on 17 July 1757, after narrowly avoiding a shipwreck. These lines are often misquoted as “Lighthouses are more helpful than churches.” Instead, Franklin—who identified himself as a Deist, not as a Christian, let alone a Roman Catholic—rather wittily remarks he is sceptical about the practical value of a chapel at the seaside to prevent shipwreck, as if to say “if I were to do anything to help prevent ships running aground, I would build a tower containing a guiding light and not some place of worship.”

On Infinity


“If we take eternity to mean not infinite temporal duration but timelessness, then eternal life belongs to those who live in the present.”

– Ludwig Wittgenstein